Archive for R+ Training

Harness That Bird!!!!

Posted in Birds, Education, Enrichment, Recall, Training, Uncategorized, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by angelsofflight

Zazu...Unharnessed at the beach.

When it comes to harness training I have mixed feelings.  Some birds need it and some birds don’t.  If you are going to keep your birds fully flighted and train them for recall and free flight then the proper skills  need to be obtained, therefore removing the need for a harness.  However, there are those people that don’t train for such things but want to give their birds the opportunity to fly and that’s ok too.  Within the confines of a large aviary or in a well planned and thought out home catered towards your birds, training for flight can be very rewarding.  As far as the harness goes, some people use it for extra precaution when going to town or on vacation with their bird even though the bird is highly trained and a motivated flyer…this is acceptable as well.  However, if a harness is not used properly it is detrimental.  It can damage a birds crop, back, wings and possibly have fatal effects on your feathered companion.  For instance, it is heartbreaking and I cringe when I see a flighted bird on a harness, it is allowed to take off at full speed just to be pulled back by the person holding the other end and then hits the ground with an amazing “THUMP”.  Talk about damage!!!  Now you’ve #1…Ruined his self confidence about flying, #2…Choked the hell out of his crop and possibly damaged something and #3…possibly cracked his keel bone!!  Yeah!!  That’s Positive Reinforcement!!  For the seasoned harness users this could make you want to smack the person upside the head and wrap a dog collar around their neck attached to a leash and send them off the Empire State Building…but in a perfect society we can’t do that!

"Daphne" (Barb Saunders' D2) recalls on a harness

My friend Barb Saunders, author of BarbsBirdsandAviary, uses a harness on her birds when traveling on vacation and talk about a seasoned harness user…the woman knows EVERYTHING about using a harness (she taught me a few tricks when I used to use one with Zazu).  Her birds are trained for recall.  She is very cautious where she recalls her birds eliminating the startle flight as much as possible and just having fun.  In this case a harness is, in my opinion, a grand little accessory.  She is able to set her bird down and recall it in short flights off a railing, a rock, etc.  She doesn’t send her birds flying into the air just to retract them back.  The harness in this case is used properly without any damage to the bird and training has been obtained to make sure both Barb and her birds are safe. “Daphne”, Barbs’ Ducorps Cockatoo was trained at the early age of 3 months old to wear a harness.  This is an important factor.  While Barb has eliminated the use of harnessing, Daphne is a seasoned veteran when it comes to a harness and if need be will wear one without any fuss.  You can’t just slap on a harness and expect your feathered baby to enjoy wearing one!!  It is a patient process and one that needs to be introduced slowly.

Zazu wore a harness in the early stages of her training.

When I was initially training Zazu on her jump flights I admit I used a harness a couple of times.  This was in the early stages of her outdoor training away from her comfort zone and I didn’t want my young (baby) bird to get startled and fly off into a parking lot and get hit by a car…I’m sure you could understand that.  As the months went on, her confidence built as well as mine with different outings and socialization such as the beach, work, and outdoor restaurants.  Therefore I removed the harness after training her to fly down 25 feet out of an oak tree and off the roof of the house…just in case these issues ever came up.  Mind you, those were scary training sessions and SHOULD NOT be done without the help and guidance of a professional.  When going to work she would take off when I called her and fly from the register area to the aquatics department landing safely and securely in the palm of my hand…this is now a properly trained bird at 10 months old.  I have all the confidence in the world with her and I do not use a harness on her at all anymore…it’s my preference.  Her wing feathers are growing out nicely as well and training continues on a daily basis.  As she acquires more wing feathers, she acquires more height and more distance therefore increasing the training for recall.

Zazu...in flight during recall training at the beach.

In one of my seminars I did “Advanced Avian Education” I touched on the recall method and use of a harness.  Obviously there is always that one bad apple in the bushel so trying to convince this man that keeping his Ducorps Cockatoo fully flighted when she was just used as an accessory in his home to make it look more tropical was a bad idea…he found an invitation for an argument…and so my point began.  If you randomly let your bird fly with no recall training, food management, enrichment, positive reinforcement, and so on…you are headed for no where except disaster.  Trying to explain that to this man was a losing battle for me so I finished our argument by giving him my phone number and telling him to give me a call when his bird was up in a 25 foot tree and wouldn’t come down.  Funny thing is, I got a call from his wife 2 weeks later frantically telling me their bird was on the roof of their house and they couldn’t get her down.  They opted for me to teach them about harness training…hummm.

Barb harnesses her birds while on vacation.

So when it comes to wearing a harness…I am all for them providing they are used correctly, maintained in condition, used for the proper purpose, and the bird is trained to wear them (Yes…you need to train your bird to wear them or they think it’s another “scud missile” coming at them from afar!!!).  There are a variety of harnesses to choose from however, Barb and I choose the aviator harness which is available online or through your local pet supply store.  This is a fantastic little tool…use it wisely…PLEASE!!!!

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